Vice-President’s Message: A Conflict of Interest
by Pax Starksen
Occasionally, we receive case assignments where all of the parties to the matter have not been identified. Later we can receive another case assignment from a different client, which involves the same incident, but with different names. If this conflict is undiscovered, it can result in your expert becoming disqualified and you being poorly served.
Garrett Engineers has a computerized system that, for each new case, automatically cross-checks the names of the parties, file and claim numbers, and the date of loss against this same data for existing cases. However, that system depends upon a complete knowledge of all the parties and an accurate description of the location involved.
Of course, all the parties and the exact location may not be known immediately, but both the client and the expert assigned should be vigilant in identifying additional parties, as they become apparent, and informing all interested parties to update their records.
An additional factor is that different clients may be requesting different areas of expertise, and thus the expert(s) may not be aware of the other’s involvement.
As an example, I was involved in a case where a semi-trailer was parked at a warehouse facility.
The landing gear of the trailer was placed upon unusually soft pavement, which caused their wheels to sink into the ground. The trailer then tipped over onto a parked car next to it.
Our original assignment involved the driver of the truck, the property damage to the trailer and its contents, the trucking company that owned the truck, and the loading dock company where the trailer was parked. No mention was made of the parked car. The case was investigated, an opinion formed, the report was written to address the assignment, and then the case was closed.
Our second assignment, received six months later, from a different client, involved the occupants of the parked car, and the owner of the real estate where the incident occurred. He had a different address (on a different street) than the actual loading dock address.
The assignments called for different experts, and it was only through Garrett Engineers’ vigilance and internal communication that the potential conflict was discovered.
Again, both our clients and experts are urged to keep GEI fully advised with respect to all parties involved.